Toyota widens hybrid lineup with new Lexus

by Hiroko Nakata

Toyota Motor Corp. on Tuesday launched its first Lexus built as a hybrid from the ground up, widening its gasoline-electric lineup amid the recent spike in demand for fuel-efficient vehicles.

The HS250h is Toyota’s second model designed only as a hybrid, following the popular Prius. It boasts superior power to the Prius and is cheaper than other models under the luxury Lexus brand.

“Power is important for a Lexus, but we want to create a car with power and environmental friendliness,” President Akio Toyoda told a news conference.

Toyota plans to start selling the HS250h in the United States and Canada in September.

The auto giant has said it will introduce hybrids for all of its models by the 2020s. Toyota also said in May it will launch four new hybrid models this year in Japan, including the new Prius and the Lexus HS250h, and three new hybrids overseas.

The new Lexus hybrid has a 2,400cc engine, more powerful than the 1,800cc engine of the Prius. The car’s lowest price is ¥3.950 million, compared with ¥3.990 million for the cheapest conventional Lexus.

“In addition, the price will be up to ¥300,000 lower due to the tax reduction and a further ¥250,000 lower due to the government aid,” said Senior Managing Director Toshio Furutani.

Thanks to tax incentives and the recent attention that environmentally friendly cars have been drawing, Toyota has already received orders for more than 3,000 of the HS250h, six times its monthly sales goal of 500 units.

Toyota said it aims to sell 2,400 units a month of the new Lexus hybrid in North America.

Meanwhile, the new Prius model launched in May continues to attract buyers. The Prius series outsold all other cars, including minivehicles, in the domestic market in June, racking up 22,292 sales.

Toyota launched in May its much-awaited new Prius hybrid to take on rival Honda Motor Co.’s Insight hybrid, released in February.

Officially priced at ¥2.05 million, the new Prius has already sparked a flurry of orders. The previous model, equipped with a smaller engine, carried a ¥2.33 million price tag.